Big words, of major impact
Where are we going to in our culture? Are we able to move towards a healthy civilization? Presently our society is based on a system called scientific materialism, and especially influenced by neoliberalism. These are big word, worth understanding, but essentially they mean that:
- only science can provide answers, and
- the basis of society is to be a consumer of goods.
For me, these ideas are not a reflection of wisdom, especially because I value (at the emotional level, not the commercial level) art, theatre, philosophy, and many other aspects of life that are not within these spheres. Both ideas are also major contributors to our current dilemmas of global warming and environmental degradation.
So, if we are to survive, and especially thrive, as a species, we must live a different value system. What would such a society value? And not just value as lip service; the values would be lived on a day-to-day basis. Previously, I listed six characteristics, and I will now comment on each in turn, here and over the coming two posts.
- The care of children would be the highest priority.
- A cultural story that honors the pursuit of and living of wisdom.
- An educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth.
- Practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.
- Governance based on planning for the “seventh generation.”
- A judiciary system based on justice circles, not just legality.
Children would be our highest priority.
We would develop social structures so that children would be included in all aspects of our lives. Why? Because children are our future, and they need to be exposed to all that we value, and what we do — remember the adage about actions speaking louder than words. I watched the movie Malala a few nights ago; it is the story of the Afghan teenage girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for demanding that girls be allowed education; she survived serious injuries, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her continuing efforts. An important component of her life had been that her father was a teacher in Afghanistan, and allowed his daughter in his classroom from infancy onwards. This was part of her cultural modeling.
I do not mean that children need dominate our lives; as adults, parents and elders, we must provide authentic models for them. Richard Rohr identifies the issue best for me in one of his recent blogs (Daily Meditations, 20160621):
I don’t think we’re doing our children any favors by raising them without boundaries or rules, and largely letting them decide for themselves what is right for them. . . . Eric Fromm, in his classic book The Art of Loving, states that the healthiest people he has known are those who received from their two parents and early authority figures a combination of unconditional love and conditional love.
But we need to provide them with models that sustain our world, rather than examples of how we dominate and destroy.
A cultural story that honors the pursuit and living of wisdom
Who do you know whom you regard as wise? What is it about them that you value? I suggest that somehow they are authentically themselves: what you see is what you get, and what you get is good judgment. How have they gotten to this place in their life? I suggest that in some fashion they have rebelled against the social norms, not in big ways necessarily, but in significant ways.
Our culture does not value wisdom! Nor does it value the other factors I identified in my PhD dissertation on acedia (see my book Acedia, The Darkness Within), factors that allow movement forward in the pursuit of wisdom:
- hope (evidence in the present for what I want in the future),
- discipline (discipline is valued as part of physical exercise, but not emotional discipline to do the hard work of resolving those issues that are part of our personal lives), and
- playfulness (joyous spontaneity and surprise).
From your perspective as reader, what is the story that guides our civilization? Human beings are story-makers; mythic narratives have guided our lives for millennia (the movie Avatar is a great example of a culture moved by story). But our cultural story for the most part is that of meaninglessness (in a cosmos of great beauty), and the domination of nature by man.
If we are to have a story, it must honor the pursuit of wisdom as a live-long study, a story that encourages our resilience as a species. For me personally, it must encourage every human being to pursue awareness of who they are (therapy, by any other name) in balance with the needs of others. It must also ask us to move towards something greater than who we are, God (spirit, creator, higher power) by any other name. Being of service is somehow of immense importance to who we are as human beings.
To be continued.